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Volume V, No. 3 NewsletterGood Boss, Bad Boss: 20 Bad HabitsLeaders Should Stop Doing Now D r. Maynard Brusman is a consulting psychologist“We spend a lot of time teaching leaders what to do. We and trusted advisordon’t spend enough time teaching leaders what to stop. to the seniorHalf the leaders I have met don’t need to learn what to do. leadership team. HeThey need to learn what to stop.” is the president of Working Resources, a—Management expert Peter Drucker, as quoted by Marshall talent managementGoldsmith in What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, consulting, training 2007 and executiveA lmost all of us delude ourselves about our workplace achievements, status and contributions. This isn’tnecessarily a bad thing, but it can certainly mislead us coaching firm. We help companies assess, select, coach andwhen we are told we need to change. retain top talent. We specialize in executiveIt can be challenging for high-level executives to selection, competency modeling, succession planning,improve their interpersonal skills. We tend to believe leadership consulting, 360-degree feedback, changethe habits that have helped us rack up achievements in management, emotional intelligence, culture surveys,the past will continue to foster success in the future. career development and leadership coaching.But as the title of his recent book asserts, What Got Dr. Brusman is a highly sought-after speaker andYou Here Won’t Get You There, according to executive workshop leader. He facilitates mission, values, andcoach Marshall Goldsmith. vision retreats.The more frequently you are promoted to higher levels “Maynard Brusman is one of the foremost coaches in theof executive responsibility, the more important your United States. He utilizes a wide variety of assessmentsinterpersonal relationship skills are to your success— in his work with senior executives and upper leveland the more challenging it is to change bad habits. managers, and is adept at helping his clients both develop higher levels of emotional intelligence andIt’s natural for successful people to believe that achieve breakthrough business results. As a senior leaderwhat contributed to their past accomplishments will in the executive coaching field, Dr. Brusman brings ancontinue to work for them. They also assume that they exceptional level of wisdom, energy, and creativity to hiscan—and will—succeed, no matter what. “Just give work.” — Jeffrey E. Auerbach, Ph.D., President, Collegeme a goal, and let the games begin!” they think to of Executive Coachingthemselves. He has been chosen as an expert to appear on radio and TV, and in the Wall Street Journal and Fast Company.But when it comes to changing the way we interact withour peers and direct reports, we often fail to recognize Working Resourcesthe steps required for ongoing results. Part of this 55 New Montgomery Street, Suite 505stems from healthy denial, while part may be sheer San Francisco, California 94105ignorance. Only when confronted with performance or San Francisco and Marin locations Telephone: 415-546-1252promotional issues do we begin to open our minds to Toll free: 800-993-3354change. This usually triggers emotional hot buttons of Fax: 415-721-7322self-interest. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: www.workingresources.com
Four Hot Buttons of Change The worst bosses are distant, difficult and arrogant. They make us feel uneasy, at best, and resentful, atF our common values motivate people to change: 1. Money worst. Understanding the defining qualities of bad bosses 2. Power doesn’t really explain how their subordinates 3. Status developed their perceptions. It often takes several 4. Popularity faulty interactions to establish a perception. It may be glaringly obvious that a boss is arrogant; more often,These are the standard payoffs for success. Having however, impressions build up over time, based onachieved many of these goals, high-level executives unintended and misaligned interactions.focus on leaving a legacy, becoming an inspired rolemodel or creating a great company as their motivation Habits That Hold You Backto change. But the hot buttons of self-interest remainembedded.Discovering What’s Wrong B efore we can discuss how to deal with counterproductive behaviors, we must identify the most common problem areas. This special breed ofI dentifying the bad leadership habits you’ve flaws centers on how we interact with other people. accumulated over your career is a task that requires Please note: We’re not talking about deficiencies inastute investigation, usually through a 360-degree skill or intelligence. By the time you are promotedassessment and interviews. When gathering and to a high level of responsibility in your organization,giving feedback, the interviewer must be sensitive, you’ve already demonstrated sufficient competenciesproviding reassurances of confidentiality. Usually, and office smarts.an experienced executive coach will deliver suchfeedback in a way that prevents you from becoming The most common bad leadership habits aren’tdefensive. This allows you to hear it without taking a personality flaws, either—although it may sometimeshuge ego hit. appear so. Remedying them doesn’t require medication or therapy.Ask anyone who works about bosses, and you’llhear ready recollections of the two types they’ve What we are really dealing with here are challenges inworked for: the ones they’ve loved and the ones they interpersonal behavior—the egregious annoyances thatcouldn’t wait to escape. When asked for a list of make the workplace substantially more noxious thandefining qualities, most people identify the following necessary. These faults do not occur in isolation; theyattributes:1 involve one person interacting with another. Goldsmith compiled the following list of negative Good Boss Bad Boss habits after years of working with top executives inGreat listener Blank wall Fortune 500 companies. Some of the qualities cited are subtle, while others are glaringly obvious. Often,Encourager Doubter they may not appear to be harmful on the surface; inCommunicator Secretive reality, they’re bona fide detriments.Courageous Intimidating 1. Winning too much. The need to win at all costsSense of humor Bad temper and in all situations—when it matters and even whenShows empathy Self-centered it doesn’t, when it’s totally beside the point.Decisive Indecisive 2. Adding too much value. The overwhelming desireTakes responsibility Blames to add our two cents to every discussion.Humble Arrogant 3. Passing judgment. The need to rate others andShares authority Mistrusts impose our standards on them.According to Social Intelligence author Daniel 4. Making destructive comments. The needlessGoleman, work groups in dozens of countries, across sarcasm and cutting remarks that we think make usall professions, will produce similar lists. The best sound sharp and witty.bosses are those who are trustworthy, empathic 5. Starting with “no,” “but” or “however.” Theand who connect with us. They make us feel calm, overuse of these negative qualifiers, which secretlyappreciated and inspired. convey to everyone, “I’m right. You’re wrong.” Page 2
6. Telling the world how smart we are. The need failing to express gratitude is remembering to sayto show people we’re smarter than they think we “thank you.” For not apologizing, it’s learning to say,are. “I’m sorry. I’ll do better next time.” For punishing7. Speaking when angry. Using emotional volatility the messenger, it’s imagining how you would wantas a management tool. to be treated under similar circumstances. For not listening, it’s keeping your mouth shut and your ears8. Negativity (“Let me explain why that won’t open.work.”). The need to share our negative thoughts,even when we haven’t been asked to do so. Making such changes is not difficult. Most people lose sight of the many daily opportunities to correct9. Withholding information. The refusal to share these behaviors.information so we can maintain an advantage overothers. Information Compulsion10. Failing to give proper recognition. The inabilityto praise and reward.11. Claiming credit we do not deserve. The most S tudy these 20 bad habits, and you’ll see that half are rooted in information compulsion. Most of us have an overwhelming need to tell others somethingannoying way to overestimate our contribution to they don’t know, even when it’s not in their bestany success. interest. When we add value, pass judgment,12. Making excuses. The need to reposition our announce that we “already knew that” or explainannoying behavior as a permanent fixture so people “why that won’t work,” we are compulsively sharingwill excuse us for it. information.13. Clinging to the past. The need to deflect blame Likewise, when we fail to give recognition, claimaway from ourselves and onto events and people credit we don’t deserve, refuse to apologize orfrom our past; a subset of blaming everyone else. neglect to express our gratitude, we are withholding information. Sharing and withholding information14. Playing favorites. Failing to see that we are are two sides of the same coin.treating someone unfairly.15. Refusing to express regret. The inability to take Emotionsresponsibility for our actions, admit we’re wrong orrecognize how our actions affect others. O ther bad habits are rooted in emotion, causing a different kind of compulsion. When we get16. Not listening. The most passive-aggressive form angry, play favorites or punish the messenger, we areof disrespect for our colleagues. succumbing to emotion.17. Failing to express gratitude. The most basic There’s nothing wrong with sharing or withholdingform of bad manners. information or emotion. In fact, it’s often necessary18. Punishing the messenger. The misguided need to withhold them. It’s therefore vital to considerto attack the innocent who, usually, are only trying whether information-sharing is appropriate.to help us. Appropriate information encompasses anything that 19. Passing the buck. The need to blame everyone unequivocally helps another person. Communication but ourselves. becomes inappropriate when we go too far or risk hurting someone. 20. An excessive need to be “me.” Exalting our faults as virtues, simply because they embody who When sharing information or emotion, ask yourself: we are. • Is this appropriate?This is a scary group of bad behaviors, according to • How much should I share?Goldsmith. Luckily, most people exhibit only one ortwo simultaneously. These two questions serve as the guidelines for anything you do or say.The other good news?These bad habits are easy to break. The cure for Page 3
How to Change a Bad HabitI f you recognize yourself on the list of 20 bad habits, you can do something about it. Fortunately, it’s easier to stop doing something than to undergo a major personality transformation.But the road to change is paved with difficulties. It’s hard to let go of firmly ingrained behaviors.Furthermore, even though you may make some progress, it’s challenging to change the perceptions ofothers who have become so used to your bad behaviors that they may not even notice your efforts toimprove for quite a long time.One way to facilitate on-the-job change is to ask for help from a select group of peers. Here are someadditional guidelines. 1. Get good information about what needs to change. A 360-degree feedback assessment is usually an effective means of determining how others perceive you. A qualified, experienced executive coach can help you obtain accurate feedback from your peers, bosses and direct reports. 2. Once you’ve identified a bad habit you would like to change, work with your coach to implement a plan of action. Get involved with a small group of colleagues with whom you can work to make improvements. 3. Apologize to people for your behavior, ask them to let go of the past, and tell them you are going to stop engaging in the bad habit. Ask them to let you know how you are doing, and when you fail or succeed. 4. Listen to their input, and thank them for helping you. Arrange follow-ups with them after a predetermined time interval. Working Resources Dr. Maynard Brusman Consulting Psychologist and Executive Coach Mail: P.O. Box 471525 San Francisco, California 94147-1525 Helping Companies Assess, Select, Coach and Retain Emotionally Intelligent People